by Austin WhiteI mean no offense to people who go to college with the goal of becoming an academic. If you desire to be an economist, for instance, you are where you need to be.
But if you don’t know what to do, a very common and understandable circumstance, there is nothing wrong with refraining from impulsively choosing some random degree to commit yourself to for five years (the average amount of time it now takes a person to earn a four-year degree). Such an act would be one of panic; not rational, calm decision making. The opportunity cost of college is gargantuan in both time and money. Ever year you spend doing busywork in college is a year lost forever that can no longer be spent developing a business, working full-time to accumulate capital, or any other activity you might like to experiment with. As you make more progress towards completing your college education it also becomes more difficult to leave and you are more likely to stick it out and just finish the degree – even if you have no interest in pursuing a career that has anything to do with what you studied.
If you’re experiencing the above scenario then dropping out may be a perfectly rational choice. But it won’t come without consequence.
Drop out of college and you are likely to be treated with nothing but negative reactions ranging from shame to disappointment and even envy. Drop out of college, or bypass it entirely, and chances are high that your position in the family tree will be tainted. Relatives will look at you as if you’ve just become addicted to heroin. Aunts, uncles, and cousins come together at family events and put on a mock intervention to get you back on track because, of course, anyone who does not attend college has surely got off on a wrong exit towards self-destruction.
Don’t worry. Those responses are no more than exhibitions of these people’s poor attitudes and fallacious thinking. Ignore them entirely. Don’t even argue. Arguing is a waste of time and college graduates have already demonstrated that they are really good at wasting irreplaceable time, so don’t expect arguments with them to be brief.
If you’re brave enough to go against the college cult and have decided that you have better things to do than waste years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars of your money, your parents money, and tax payer dollars pretending to learn things about subjects you’re pretending to be interested in, then congratulations. But beware; you need to be ready to deal with the college cultists.
A cult it certainly is. People have a shockingly naïve faith in college being the door to a life of riches so much that many students seem to believe there is even a money-back guarantee. Kids go in, rich adults come out and that’s it. A pristine perfect plan if there ever was one.
College graduates if anything are worse off because they come out with a sense of entitlement to a great paying job – a very bad state of mind to have during bad economic times. Any lower-paying job that doesn't involve what they studied is considered beneath them. After spending four or more years writing papers and taking exam they feel as if they’ve already done all the work necessary to prove themselves. Unfortunately, they forgot that it’s really about proving themselves in the market, unless they are aspiring tax parasites who want to work in government.
There is a generation of people about to be unleashed on the world who have never worked an entry-level job and have no idea what the real world even is. They’ve never had to meet the demands of customers and bosses who can fire an employee in an instant. I delivered pizza for three years and during that time some of my coworkers were college graduates or about to graduate. They had awful work ethics. Every part of the job was beneath them: answering the phones, taking out the trash, and even having a good attitude was too much to ask. They almost seemed to believe simply because they were in college they should be the automatic owners of the restaurant and not working in it despite the fact that for most of them it was their first job.
This is quite alarming when you consider that currently 70% of high school graduates go onto college. Sociologist Richard Arum conducted a study involving 2,300 students at twenty-four different universities. 36% of students showed no improvement at all in their critical thinking abilities after four years of college. They came out not a bit smarter even after four years of taking classes. The unemployment rate among college graduates is only slightly better than those with only a high school education and just as many graduates are finding themselves working jobs that don’t require a degree. Despite all of this the price of a college education has risen 350% (adjusted for inflation) since 1980 and the debt a person incurs to pay for it is inescapable. An education can’t be repossessed the way a car or home can if the borrower can’t pay back. Student loan debt for the first time in American history is exceeding both credit card and home owner debt.
You might be better off going straight into the market without a college degree. Yes, college graduates still do better overall, but many will also have that debt to payback. If you bypass college you’ll be getting a huge head start in the real world. By the time your peers are graduating you’ll have already figured out how to progress and move up within your field. Employers don’t necessarily want smart college-educated employees; they want productive employees who will help them make more money. Only experience can give you this quality.
I spent three years in college and I can’t even remember 90% of my professors’ names. There was one teacher who demonstrated the evils of capitalism by holding up a can of Coca-Cola and saying “the fluid in this can costs less to make than the can it’s contained in, but yet they charge you a dollar!” It obviously never occurred to him that there are hundreds of competing beverages he can buy instead and he’s completely free not to buy the Coca-Cola. I took an elective course called Government and Media taught by a lady who thinks the FCC should completely regulate all media, even the internet, and that all TV channels should be a variant of NPR.
My U.S. Government teacher should rename his course Why I’m Infatuated with the State. He lovingly described each and every department of the government as if he’s the one who thought them up and is currently in charge. The only thing wrong with the state, to him, is that it isn’t even more controlling and powerful. He had a little in-class election in 2008, I wrote in Ron Paul. A humanities teacher I had taught me that one of the causes of the Great Depression was individualism, it grew worse because Hoover didn’t intervene at all, and military Keynesianism is what ended the depression. On the midterm I wrote in the real causes of the Great Depression along with a big list of Austrian economists I would contact if he marked my answer incorrect.
The claim that college is a venue for the free and open discussion of ideas is a myth. Teachers hate and despise anyone who challenges them. They’ve been making a living regurgitating the same lectures every semester for over a decade and don’t want some kid refuting them because that could mean having to rewrite a lecture. I probably wouldn’t put any effort into my lessons either if I was a college professor. The average college student is either stoned, hung-over, just woke up five minutes ago, braindead from the prior thirteen years of government school indoctrination, or all of the above. Boys speak with a combination of grunts and gargle sounds and the girls speak only with giggle sounds. It’s also shocking how many of my peers didn’t work or had never worked a job. “I’m a student” is what you hear when you ask many of them what they do for work.
My old economics professor does secret studies on his students. The last one he did showed the great majority of his students want tax victims to pay for their healthcare, tuition, and the down payment on their future homes – not exactly indicators of a generation that plans on producing much.
Of the twenty-five total classes I took I can honestly only remember useful concepts from two of them: a business law class and Jack Chambless’s economics class. But I could have learned all of those concepts without ever actually enrolling. All the business law teacher did was tell us to read the text book and then the next class he would orally skim through the book. He gets paid to read to people out loud.
Jack Chambless puts high quality recordings of his lectures online for the entire world to view. Anyone can take his economics class without paying tuition and they would be getting exactly what his classroom students get. Buy his book, check out the pre-recorded lectures, and if you’re willing to pay enough I’m sure he’d be happy to arrange for some type of proctored testing if you really want to see how well you understand.
Or you could go to Mises.org and have access to thousands of hours worth of lectures by Murray Rothbard, Hans Hoppe, Walter Block, Robert Higgs, Tom DiLorenzo, Joe Salerno, and even a few by Mises himself. For no cost at all you can receive the same economics lessons that Murray Rothbard’s actual students got. You can even download Man, Economy, and State for free.
I’ve learned more from Wikipedia alone than I learned in college and more and more people will be saying the same of Khan Academy and Mises Academy soon. The entire American education system is from the Stone Age. There is no reason for schools to be spending millions of dollars on new buildings and hiring professors to read textbooks out loud to people when the lecture can simply be recorded and uploaded to the internet for all to see for free in whatever venue the consumer prefers.
The American education system is in critical condition with an IV and feeding tube pumping tax-payer subsidies into its lifeless body as the accreditation cartel feebly stands between us and educational entrepreneurs who seek to offer us cheap, innovative ways to learn anything we want.